Why should we be hosting, at great expense, a five-day state visit by a man who is in the process of running his country into the ground while he jet-sets all over the world with his 13 wives and elaborate entourages? Slated to be the world’s 15th richest monarch (Forbes) with a personal fortune estimated at US$100 million, King Mswati III represses his 1.2 million ‘subjects’. He denies them the rights we take for granted in this country, yet he is feted by our Namibian Government with no regard for the plight of the Swazi people.
MOST Namibians are so passively disconnected from the significance of events like these, and don’t seem to care about our nation’s conscience and credibility, so thumbs up to the only two organisations in Namibian civil society, namely the Teachers Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) trade union and Namrights, who protested the visit.
The people of Swaziland – with a small population of approximately 1.2 million – are currently bent under the burden of denial of civil rights as well as widespread poverty – but King Mswati III is about to send three of his 13 wives, plus entourage totalling some 60 people, in a private chartered plane, on a multi-million holiday to Las Vegas, USA, where they have been said to have rented 10 expensive villas for their stay. And while he and his family live in the lap of luxury themselves, only recently the monarch had the temerity to warn his ‘subjects’ about the dangers of the “love of money”, a speech rightly described as ‘insensitive’ and ‘arrogant’ by critics.
The BBC recently reported that Mswati III had recently taken receipt of a jet valued at N$150 million – a gift from ‘development partners’ who have not (but should be) named. A presidential spokesman said the gift was from ‘development partners and friends’ of Mswati, “people already involved in the social and economic development of the country” and who wished to remain anonymous.
The Swaziland Diaspora Platform, a human rights movement based in South Africa, has rejected the Swazi Government’s explanation of the gift and demands full accounting. Swaziland’s current economic crisis has sparked protests and demands for more democracy in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, where all political parties are banned. Recently cash-strapped Swaziland was bailed out by a conditional loan from South Africa of R2.4 billion of which Mswati wanted commission of R400 million, a request that was, fortunately, exposed and turned down.
Yet we in Namibia turn a blind eye to the excesses of a head of state such as this. Not only do we wine and dine him and his entourage for five days, but we also take him on a hunting trip, apparently as the guest of former President Sam Nujoma.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba, effusive in his praise for relations between the two countries, even found a way to bestow ‘struggle credentials’ on Swaziland by thanking the late father of Mswati III, for inspiring Namibia’s own liberation. General agreements between the two countries have been signed, Pohamba said, in the fields of education and tourism, but the details are not known at this time.
One despairs as to whether Namibia will ever care about democracy in other countries of the continent and the rest of the world. We are completely blinkered regarding questionable heads of state, particularly in the SADC region, and are not prepared to speak out against those who give the sub-continent a bad name. So we will continue to host greedy monarchs like Mswati, spending our hard-earned tax dollars on entertaining him and others in our country, unless our head of state and Government finally wake up to realise the injustice we are doing to our people and to all those who support democracy, human rights and good governance both in Africa and further afield.